By now you’ve seen words, names or phrases that use the pound (#) or number sign, whether on Twitter, Instagram or even on prime-time TV. This little symbol, known as a hashtag, is a powerful tool that can do wonders for your message, if used correctly.
Before we get into the power of the hashtag, let’s start by defining what it is. Twitter users invented the hashtag years ago as a way to categorize messages. A hashtag is simply the # symbol followed by a keyword or phrase, with no spaces in between (e.g., #CyberMonday, #Oscars, #NFL, #YOLO, #FollowFriday).
Why are hashtags important? According to Twitter, “People use the hashtag symbol before a relevant keyword or phrase (no spaces) in their tweet to categorize those tweets and help them show more easily in Twitter Search.” Similarly, hashtags can be used on other social media platforms to categorize messages or images, but for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on Twitter.
If you’re running a Twitter handle for your brand or a client, including hashtags in your tweets is a great way to engage with the Twitter community and expand your message to new audiences. Here are a few tips to follow as you think about using and creating hashtags for a brand:
- #ListenFirst. Before you start using a hashtag, do a search to see if it’s already being used. If so, what conversations are happening within that hashtag’s stream? Sometimes it’s not what you think. Be sure to insert yourself into brand-relevant conversations.
- #ShortandSimple. On Twitter, you only get 140 characters. Keep your hashtags short and direct to give your audience more opportunity to engage.
- #DoNotSpam. Aim to use just a few hashtags per tweet (too many can come off as overkill and desperate) and ensure the ones you’re using are relevant, both to your brand and to people following that hashtag.
- #BrandAHashtag. Hashtags are a great way to generate buzz around an event or marketing campaign. Create a hashtag that’s ownable to drive conversation for your brand/campaign. Check out #PepsiHalftime or Kate Spade’s use of #LiveColorfully for a few good examples.
- #CrossPromote. Before someone can use your hashtag, they must be aware of it. Use other marketing channels, such as your website, PR interviews and ads, to promote your hashtag and encourage use.
- #MonitorandTrack. The goal of a hashtag is to expand your message’s reach. If you create a brand/campaign hashtag, make sure you are monitoring it and engaging with those who use it.
- #FindYourVoice. Don’t be afraid to have a little fun with your hashtags. Social media is a great way to let your brand’s personality shine.
Whether you’re looking to share information live from an event or just looking to expand your brand’s conversation online, consider hashtags. It’s amazing to see how people across the world can instantly be connected, chat and share information real-time, all thanks to one little symbol. #LongLivetheHashtag
– Jenny Stasi, Account Supervisor